Growing up, Cassie Ghaffar worked in her father’s restaurants. In college, she opened the Epic Lounge in Midtown.
Now Ghaffar, who has worked in corporate wealth management and is a franchise owner of five locations of Amazing Lash Studio, is opening three new food concepts.
Saigon Hustle, now operating in Blodgett Food Hall, will open a flagship drive-through in the remnants of the gas station at the corner of West 34th Street and Ella Boulevard, owned by Revive. Next door, in the former laundromat, will be Sunday Press, an all-day café. And on Halloween, Ghaffar will open Ginger Kale in the former Pinewood Café at Hermann Park.
For most people, this undertaking might be exhausting, but not for Ghaffar, who says she thrives on an abundance of opportunities.
First, Saigon Hustle is an homage to her Vietnamese heritage and will offer Vietnamese fast food, served from a drive-through at 34th and Ella.
“It will be quick service, sandwiches, rice dishes and vermicelli bowls,” Ghaffar said. “We want to offer that convenience for people, but also make it very authentic and old school. These are family recipes that have been passed down for generations.”
Ghaffar told Eater.com that the “hustle” in the restaurant’s name is a tribute to her 85-year-old grandmother.
“She had to hustle our family out (of Vietnam) quick enough so we could get here,” she said.
Those who want a taste of what is to come at 34th can visit the location in Blodgett Food Hall’s cloud kitchen space in the Third Ward, where Ghaffar is doing take-out and delivery.
Ghaffar said she initially decided to open the cloud kitchen inside of Blodgett Food Hall to perfect the technique for the drive-through. But because the location has been so successful – and profitable – she plans to keep it open.
She said she decided on the corner location at 34th for Saigon Hustle and Sunday Press because it was a booming area with high visibility.
Gin Design Group is helping with the design and A La Carte Consulting is helping streamline her vision of further expansion.
“The front corner is going to be so cool,” Ghaffar said. “There will be some seating and a patio area.”
Sunday Press, the second concept of Ghaffar’s on 34th, will be the first to start construction as the permits just came through. Saigon Hustle will follow three months later.
Sunday Press will also be a drive-through – like Starbucks with a full menu – with sandwiches, salads and more.
Ghaffar’s most immediate project is launching Ginger Kale near the Houston Zoo in Hermann Park. The menu offers the sandwiches and salads that busy sightseers want along with grab-and-go options like Chia pudding, overnight oats, Acai bowls and fresh pressed juices as well as many baked items.